* Time to make a move: Jimmie Johnson eyeing fourth straight Lowe's Motor Speedway win DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 11, 2005) -- Saturday's UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway marks the fifth event in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL...
* Time to make a move: Jimmie Johnson eyeing fourth straight Lowe's Motor Speedway win
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 11, 2005) -- Saturday's UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway marks the fifth event in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, and for nine of the 10 drivers involved, it's "Go" time.
With the standings bunched behind leader Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) -- less than 100 points separates the top six drivers -- game plans are drawn and game faces firmly affixed.
But this week, one NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver may hold an edge in his quest to catch Stewart. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) has dominated Lowe's Motor Speedway for two seasons, and Saturday night, he'll chase not only Stewart, but his fourth consecutive win at the 1.5-mile venue.
Johnson enters Saturday night's event in fifth place in the Chase, 92 points behind Stewart. He trails fourth-place Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) by only three points, third-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) by only four points and second-place Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) by only 17 points.
That's much more comfortable than the spot Johnson occupied a year ago. In 2004, Johnson exited Kansas -- en route to Lowe's -- in ninth place in the Chase standings, a distant 247 points behind then-leader and eventual champion Kurt Busch (No. 97 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford). Beginning at Lowe's, Johnson won four of the last six Chase events, finishing only eight points behind Busch in the final standings -- the closest championship margin in NASCAR history.
"Last year, everybody felt that the champion was going to be a team that made it clean through the final 10," Johnson said recently. "This year, I think the teams are a little bit smarter and everybody has realized that last year everybody had a problem. So I don't see the intensity level as high as the first few races.
"Now as we get toward the half-way point in the Chase, the intensity level is going to ramp-up and catch up for everybody."
Johnson's success at Lowe's spans several seasons. He swept both 2004 events there, along with this season's Coca-Cola 600 in May. His career record is four wins and seven top-10 finishes in eight career starts at Lowe's.
"I think we're still climbing the hill and that's a good position to be in," Johnson said. "We're still excited and getting ready to peak."